Criterion Month Day 23: Paris Is Burning

Paris Is Burning (1990)

I watched Paris Is Burning last night and have spent all day today agonizing over how to convince you that it’s worth seeing if you haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe the five stars I gave it will help? I’d also like to tell you it’s easy to stream on the Criterion Channel right now. Maybe if I include that it’s only 78 minutes long that might sweeten the deal? I just don’t want to come on too strong. Because what I really want to lead with is Paris Is Burning is without a doubt one of the most beautiful, moving documentaries about life in America I’ve ever seen. And I know that lofty proclamations like that get movies added to queues but then it takes something like a Criterion Month to convince us to actually watch them.

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Criterion Month Day 22: To Sleep With Anger

To Sleep With Anger (1990)

One dilemma that I don’t think we’ve talked about much is that The Criterion Collection, as great and all-encompassing as it may seem, doesn’t always have the exact movie you want to see by certain directors. An example that applies to a recent director we covered is Pedro Almodóvar, whose favorite film of mine is not in The Collection (Talk To Her). However, it doesn’t bother me all that much that John ended up watching Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, since it’s probably the best place to start with Almodóvar.

I’m not sure if that’s necessarily the case with To Sleep With Anger, the lone film directed by Charles Burnett in The Criterion Collection, as it seems like 1978’s Killer of Sheep is the most influential and highly regarded of his films. But for whatever reason, be it copyright issues or something else, To Sleep With Anger is the place at which I’ll have to start with his filmography. Continue reading

Criterion Month Day 21: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

As a cinephile, or in layman’s terms, “A movie liking’ guy” Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar is a blind spot. Yasujirō Ozu is another (better watch out pal I’m coming for ya!) I’m not sure why it took me so long. I got so close to watching that Penelope Cruz movie with the creepy mask. I wanted to see Pain and Glory, but it felt weird to watch a semi-autobiographical film by a filmmaker I have no history with. All I knew about Almodóvar is that he casts strong women and sometimes Antonio Banderas. So Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown felt like a good enough entry. It may have come out a decade into Almodóvar’s career but it was his international breakout, nabbing a Best Foreign Language Film nom at the Oscars. So what did I learn?

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Criterion Month Day 20: The Big Chill

The Big Chill (1983)

I think anyone of my generation or younger who chooses to watch The Big Chill goes into it dreading they’ll find it relatable. It’s a movie about a group of white, boomer thirtysomethings who get together to talk about how they all sold out, got rich, and settled down. Basically, its about exactly the people and the mindset that led to our world being in such a dire state today. But I think writer-director Lawrence Kasdan is using the specific experience of his generation to make a broader observation about how growing old has affected every generation. More importantly, he’s letting us spend time with eight interesting characters in what I’d call a proto-hangout movie.

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Criterion Month Day 19: The Long Good Friday

The Long Good Friday (1979)

When Bob Hoskins died in 2014, one of the things I remember seeing written about the most (aside from Super Mario and Hook) was his star turn performance in The Long Good Friday. Particularly, I remember seeing people post the last couple minutes of the movie and talk about how gifted he was to convey so much wordlessly. That scene definitely put this movie on my radar: the distinct music, young Pierce Brosnan, complicated politics in a gangster movie? It sounded awesome. Then I forgot about The Long Good Friday for six years, until my last pre-pandemic movie going experience: The Gentlemen. That Guy Ritchie movie borrows a lot from The Long Good Friday, including a very direct homage to that ending scene. When that happened a light went off in my head and, like Lex in Jurassic Park, I couldn’t help but think “I know this!” So that night I decided I would definitely make time to watch The Long Good Friday.

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Criterion Month Day 18: The Last Wave

The Last Wave (1977)

Australian New Wave is a subgenre of film I’ve been interested in for awhile now. Though I’ve spent most of my time dipping my toes in the horrors of the outback, I’ve seen a few dramas and westerns too. Last year I watched one of Peter Weir’s first films Picnic at Hanging Rock. Weir arguably being the most successful Australian director to come out of the 70s apart from George Miller. Weir’s career in the states included a string of mainstream hollywood hits like Witness, Dead Poet’s Society and The Truman Show. Though if you look at his early films, you’ll find a far more brooding and contemplative filmmaker.

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Criterion Month Day 17: Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance

Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (1974)

Last year when I reviewed Lady Snowblood, it was a nice respite from the headier films I usually take on in Criterion Month as it’s about as purely entertaining of an action movie as you could ask for. Granted, it also manages to be visually arresting in a way that elevates it above pure pulp into Criterion territory, which is a little ironic considering its visuals are rooted in its Manga source material. Watching its sequel, Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance, was a bit of a similar experience, considering I could fit the length of both Lady Snowblood movies within the last film I watched. Though Love Song of Vengeance is a bit of a departure from the original film, as it tones down the over-the-top violence and extensive sword fights considerably, but I think is a more interesting companion piece in the process. Continue reading